France’s arms control and disarmament policy is guided by three steadfast principles : working to achieve a safer world and a fairer global order based on the rule of law and collective security, preventing threats to peace, respecting the right to self-defence, rejecting the arms race and moving towards general and complete disarmament.
France has always sought to maintain its nuclear arsenal at the lowest possible level compatible with the strategic context, in line with the principle of strict sufficiency. France has paved the way : it has taken significant unilateral measures in this area, and some have been unprecedented, especially since the end of the Cold War. France continues to reduce its arsenal to the lowest possible level.
At the same time, consistent with the NPT goals in nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament which it has made its own, France has actively and concretely committed to disarmament, nationally and internationally.
Internationally, France is pursuing resolute efforts in disarmament taken at national level. It would like all other nuclear powers to take the path that it has forged for over a decade, leading to a posture of strict sufficiency of nuclear arsenals. We will only be able to continue down the disarmament path if we are all determined to do so. Transparency, trust and reciprocity are the basis for collective security and disarmament.
Opération de désarmement définitif du premier des dix-huit missiles du SSBS [Sol-sol balistique stratégique] S3D à Apt le 30 septembre 1996. © Alex Paringaux
France promotes a concrete approach to disarmament : beyond words, what matters is action. As the President of the French Republic highlighted in his address in Istres on 19 February 2015, "Nuclear disarmament cannot be wishful thinking or an invitation ! It needs to be demonstrated, first and foremost by the States that call for it." France is taking action.
France likewise considers that it is vital to continue down the path of disarmament without limiting or stifling its discussion or its ambition. It is particularly important to avoid disassociating nuclear disarmament from collective security and the strategic context. Some countries’ concerns are not solely about nuclear arsenals and postures, but missile defence, conventional capabilities and space as well. We therefore need to address multiple issues and work to improve international security.
Regarding nuclear disarmament
Be it ambitious reductions made individually by France and the United Kingdom, or bilaterally by the two nuclear-weapon States with the largest arsenals, a lot has already been done. France welcomes the signing by the Russian and American Presidents on 8 April 2010 of a new START agreement for reducing offensive strategic arsenals and the entry into force of this agreement on 5 February 2011. Significant reductions in Russian and American arsenals are a priority in nuclear disarmament given that these two countries still possess nearly 90 % of the world’s nuclear weapons stockpiles. We call for this bilateral nuclear disarmament process to continue.
But of course disarmament does not solely depend on individual and bilateral initiatives ; a multilateral approach is also important. As underscored in Article VI, each State, and not solely the nuclear-weapon States, must contribute to nuclear disarmament, and more broadly, collective security. As regards the next multilateral steps towards nuclear disarmament, the international community’s roadmap highlights that two initiatives must take absolute priority : the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the launch of negotiations on the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty.
Furthermore, France is involved in the Group of Governmental Experts created by Resolution 67/53. It believes that the in-depth discussions on the fundamental elements of a treaty which it helped to carry out make a useful contribution to preparing negotiations for a legally binding international instrument. France welcomes the fact that Resolution 1887 1, as well as the final document adopted by the 2010 NPT Review Conference 2, highlighted the importance of this. France will very shortly submit a draft fissile material cut-off treaty (FMCT) for nuclear weapons and other explosive nuclear devices, as was announced by the President of the French Republic in his speech at Istres on 19 February 2015.
Moreover, France considers that disarmament efforts should not be limited to measures to reduce arsenals ; it is also important that States undertake to fully shut down and, as far as possible, convert to civilian uses or dismantle their fissile material production facilities for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, to dismantle nuclear testing sites, to declare a moratorium on the production of fissile material for weapons, but also to show more transparency, whether it be with regard to doctrine, arsenals or concrete disarmament efforts.
Regarding nuclear disarmament
Progress has been made with the adoption of the Oslo Convention on Cluster Munitions, less than 10 years after the Ottawa Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines (1999). After having signed it in December 2008, France was the 20th State to ratify the Oslo Convention on 25 September 2009, accelerating its entry into force, which is effective since 1 August 2010. This Convention, however, currently only covers the holders of 10 % of the stockpiles of cluster munitions in the world. It is for this reason that France is permanently working on outreach and advocacy, both with signatory States which are close to ratification, and non-signatory countries, in order to make this Convention universal.
But progress on other aspects still needs to be made.
To try to efficiently and sustainably curb the dissemination of illicit small arms and light weapons (SALW), which are responsible for almost half a million deaths per year, the entire international community has reacted, be it within the framework of the United Nations, the European Union, or many other regional organizations. Indeed, today there are several initiatives for controlling weapons transfers, the marking of weapons, securing stockpiles including ammunition and the destruction of surpluses. An example of this is the international initiative launched by France aiming to combat the illicit air transport of SALW. The International Instrument to Enable States to Identify and Trace, in a Timely and Reliable Manner, Illicit Small Arms and Light Weapons, adopted in 2005 and jointly initiated by France and Switzerland, also strengthened the UN framework to combat the spread of these weapons. From the outset, France has also been very active in the process which led to the adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) on 2 April 2013. It considers that setting up common rules or principles in this field is now a priority security issue for all States. It recalls that the main objective of the treaty is to lead States to adopt responsible, transparent and proportionate rules of conduct as regards the transfer of conventional weapons. To be efficient, the treaty should be universal and should be adopted by as many countries as possible, particularly by the main weapons importers and exporters.
In the chemical and biological areas
France has an active role in the work of the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological Weapons Convention with a view to advancing their implementation and universalization and to drafting appropriate measures to shore up their regime and authority. In the biological field, France considers it extremely important to seek additional modalities to effectively evaluate compliance with the obligations of the Convention by its States Parties.
France has also actively participated in the work of the Australia Group. It hosts its plenary meeting every year and considers that export control is a concrete instrument in furthering compliance with the Conventions.
France has also fully contributed to all European initiatives in support of these two Conventions.
Combating ballistic proliferation
It is also important to come up with ways to enable the international non-proliferation regime to better combat ballistic proliferation : to date, there is no binding multilateral treaty which aims to limit the possession and development of missiles or certain categories of missiles.
We must also ensure that space activities continue to have peaceful purposes. The security of space activities and preserving access to space are two priority issues.
France, a leading nation in space activities, is committed to universalizing and improving the implementation of the rules set by spatial convention, while observing the three main principles which must govern spatial activities :
freedom to access space for peaceful uses ;
preservation of the security and integrity of satellites in orbit ;
awareness of States’ right to self defence.
Outer space cannot become a battlefield, as it is a unique and fragile resource for humanity. Any deliberate or accidental destruction of an object in the main orbital regions leads to the proliferation of very long-lasting debris which threatens all satellites, whether scientific, commercial or military, and which in the long term is at risk of making these orbits permanently unusable for several centuries.
France supports the project which was started by the European Union of an International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities, which aims to promote, through voluntary confidence-building measures and transparency, the security of spatial activities, whether they be civilian or military.
Furthermore, France opposes placing offensive weapons in space, whether they be used for the fight against satellites, active direct interception of aerospace craft or an attack on land.